Canada’s government has declared it will start a nationwide inquiry into the murders and disappearances of thousands of indigenous women over the past three decades across the country.
The long-delayed investigation was announced on Wednesday amid talk of national reconciliation in Canada, which has witnessed violence directed at more than 1,200 native women — or as many as 4,000 by some estimates — murdered or gone missing since 1980.
The inquiry is scheduled to start in September and continue to the end of 2018.
“The national inquiry is an important step on our journey of reconciliation with the indigenous people of Canada,” said Carolyn Bennett, Canada’s minister of Indigenous affairs. “From coast to coast to coast, the high rate of missing indigenous women and girls could not be ignored.”
Ottawa has been increasingly pressed for answers concerning the cases of death or disappearance among Indigenous women that occurred between 1980 and 2012.
Patty Hajdu, the minister of the status of women, said, “We recognize that a number of factors, like racism, marginalization, sexism, and poverty have contributed to the ongoing tragedy of murdered and missing indigenous women and girls.”
According to reports by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, aboriginal women represent 4.3 percent of the total female population, but 16 percent of all female murder cases are from the country’s indigenous population.
The community struggles with poverty as well as high rates of crime.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised a “total renewal” of the country’s relationship with its aboriginal population.
“The victims deserve justice, their families an opportunity to heal and to be heard,” he has said.
The move marks a political U-turn from the policies of Trudeau’s predecessor, Stephen Harper, who had refused to launch an investigation into the cases of murder and disappearance in the Indigenous community.